Malta, nine other EU countries working for transparency in medicine prices

Valletta Declaration Group meeting brings together EU health ministers in Malta to discuss ways of sharing medicine prices paid to pharmaceutical industry

Health Ministers from the Valletta Declaration Group met in Malta on Friday
Health Ministers from the Valletta Declaration Group met in Malta on Friday

Malta and nine other European Union countries are exploring legal and political ways to bring about better transparency when it comes to the pricing of medicines, with a view towards facilitating joint procurement initiatives.

The Valletta Declaration Group, made up of Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, met on Friday to open the doors for discussions on ways in which the EU’s member states can have access to the prices which they each pay to the pharmaceutical industry to buy medicine.

Currently, medicine contracts between pharmaceutical companies and individual countries do not allow the purchasing authorities to divulge the prices they are paying, but the Group has now given a mandate to its technical committee to start looking into the ways on how pricing information can be made available to the Union’s member states.

Addressing the Group’s meeting in Malta today, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that these efforts would allow the member states to negotiate better with the pharmaceutical industry, also setting the stage for the possibility of joint procurement of medicine by the countries involved.

“Unless we have visibility on what each of us are paying for different medicines, procuring those medicines together will remain difficult,” Fearne said, “So the first step which we have agreed upon, and mandated the technical committee to produce solutions for by the next meeting in September in Italy, is to look at ways on how to legally and practically bring about transparency in the pricing of medicines.”

The Valletta Declaration Group when, during Malta’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, a number of member states - now totalling ten - came together to sign the Valletta Declaration, which aims to ensure that new medicines coming onto the market are available to everyone at sustainable prices.

Today’s meeting, which brought together the various member states’ health minister, took place a few days after the two year anniversary of the Declaration’s signing.

“The Valletta Declaration had from the very start decided to embark on a journey of engaging with the pharmaceutical industry to bring rationality and transparency, and to make sure that whilst innovation continues to be encouraged, the new medicines coming onto the market do not endanger sustainability. These two poles have been the agenda which brought together the Valletta Declaration Group,” Fearne highlighted.

Another main issue discussed by the ministers was linked to the situation surrounding anti-microbial resistance, with Fearne underlining that the Group had identified the problem as one about which they would be looking to engage on with the pharmaceutical industry.

“The second issue which we discussed is inter-related, and linked to the situation with anti-microbial resistance,” he said, “In the past few years the threat of this has grown, with newly resistant microbes entering communities and providing problems for medical staff to deal with them.”

“The development of new antibiotics - which is needed to address the problem - is encountering difficulty, because there is perceived to be market failure in this area. Therefore, this matter has been identified as one of the issues which the Group, together with other groups, will be looking at and engaging on with the pharmaceutical industry,” the Deputy Prime Minister added.

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